29 November 2006

Christmastiiiime is heeere.....

Visions of Charlie, Sally, Linus, and Peppermint Patty are dancing in my head as the Bailey home fills with Christmas music and anticipation of the arctic front that's blowing into Dallas late tonight. It should be 38 degrees and wintry when we awake in the morning!

In honor of the chilly weather, I thought I'd share some photos of our tree-trimming this past weekend. Doesn't decorating for Christmas seem a lot more exciting when it's not 75 outside??

Typical Steven-being-silly-with-the-twinkle-lights pic
(note the new olive green color I painted above the fireplace!)...

Michelle and I...

I found these stocking hooks at Target and was quite pleased!

The adorable nativity Steven's sister, Michelle, sent us from Gobbleville - check out Joseph's turban!

...and the finished product :)

26 November 2006

Capturing autumn.

There's nothing like autumn in the Northeast. Every time I revisit my hometown, I'm reminded of why I love small town life and the changing of the seasons. I miss walking out the front door, up the street, and around the corner to go downtown, sitting at the counter eating a melt-in-your-mouth corn muffin at C & J's Deli with the other Italian locals who have known me since I was 3, and the quaintness of the shops and surrounding farms as they showcase the latest products of harvest. No, New Jersey does not all look like Newark Airport, thank goodness! Steven and I, with our friends Brad & Mary, had a glorious few days enjoying autumn in Madison, NJ and strolling around New York City with latte's in hand...

Here are a few of my favorites...you can view all of the photos here.

16 November 2006

I left my heart in Africa.

It seems I’m missing something. After I returned from 10 days in Kenya and Uganda on November 5th, Steven and I immediately left the next morning for our short vacation to New Jersey and New York City. Now that we’re back and “real life” has set in again, I think I'm just now starting to process what's happened. I find myself wandering around our new home aimlessly…searching for something I can’t seem to find. Not in the bedrooms, not in the office. Something is missing, and I think I know where it is.

I have several friends who have been to Africa, and it's common to hear them say, "I left my heart there..." with a distant look of longing in their eyes. And I never understood it, really. Sure, I left my heart in Italy in the magical piazzas or on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, but in the slums of a third world country? At an orphanage where I wore the same clothes for 3 days and washed my hair in a well? Yet, it's true.

Now, I can’t get Kibera off my mind. I can’t stop thinking of the putrid smells of the slums mixed with the intense joy of the people there. I remember the moment of driving up to Mercy Home and all the children flooding the car, eager to grab my hands and tell me their names. I went there to love and serve them, but I was the one who was loved and served.

I saw Jesus so clearly there...in the brilliant sunsets, in the faces of the abandoned babies just wanting to play and be loved, in the singing voices of the kids at Mercy Home. And certainly in the face of Margret Harriet:

In Africa, stress and anxiety weren’t even an issue. My only job each day was loving people, and my face hurt from smiling. I realize it was only a short-term trip. And I don't want to bash life in America, because we are very privileged and provided for. Just trying to make sense of it all. With such deep contrasts – the greatest joy amidst the greatest poverty and struggle – beautiful landscapes and horrific slums – children redeemed from their circumstances and those still living in violence - it seems whenever I try to describe it, it comes out as...not enough. So hopefully my photos and video will do a better job than I can:

My photos.

Video of Mercy Home children singing.

05 November 2006

A surreal day.

Yesterday I was washing my hair in a well at an orphanage in Uganda while the children watched in curiosity, and today I have just sunbathed on the shores of Lake Victoria at a five star beach resort. The contrasts of this week have been confusing and surreal to say the least. Last night after a very tearful goodbye to the orphans at Mercy Home of Children in Kajjansi, Uganda, all 9 of us on our team went to the airport in Entebbe to return back home via Amsterdam. Thirty minutes before departure, they delayed our flight because all the lights on the runway had gone out (Don't they have replacement bulbs?? And do they really ALL go out at the same time?). After sleeping on the floor of the airport for a few hours, any "innocence" we had gained by staying at the orphanage for 4 days had quickly left us, unfortunately, and we were cranky. We found out our flight was totally cancelled and groggily entered the complimentary shuttle to take us to our hotel for the night. Little did we know we'd end up staying at the Imperial Resort Beach Hotel on the shores of Lake Victoria! While we were so thankful for the accommodations, we were not sure what to think about the situation since it was such a contrast from the places we have been this week with the poorest of the poor. I admit it's been a very relaxing time that was much needed. I just wish we could have stayed one more night at the orphanage if we had known about our flight.

I can't wait to write more, but for now I'll say I've experienced so much joy this week that my face actually hurt from smiling! I want to adopt Margret Harriet from Mercy Home and tears fill my eyes every time I think of gripping Margret's hand out the window of our van as we left the orphanage. I didn't expect to love Africa this much or want to stay so badly or continue to hear the children's songs echoing in my head. This morning when I awoke at the hotel, I read the card Margret wrote me that said, "How are you? I hope you are doing fine. Me I am not fine because I am missing you." The tears came again. Uganda is an unbelievably beautiful country and it seems like weeks ago that we were in Kenya. So many photos and experiences to share with you! Until then I'll go back down to the beach and enjoy the last few hours of my surreal Uganda one day "vacation" before we head to Amsterdam tonight and try all of this over again! If you read this today, please pray for us to get back to the U.S. on Monday! I love you all from Africa!